Phillies: Bullpen’s Plan B for 2020

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

As the Philadelphia Phillies games on the schedule dwindle, the calendar says September; and I’m not writing about free agents for 2021, the franchise’s future stars, and the organization’s finances regarding the competitive-balance threshold for next year. Instead, my articles will involve strengths, weaknesses, and possible fixes.

 

On Girardi’s Radar:

Even though the pen has been the Achilles' heel of the Phillies, one pitcher stands out as a potential answer. And, recently, Joe Girardi took his first step in that direction on Sept. 10 when he signaled in the sixth inning for the reliever to face an opposite-side bat (not a pinch hitter). But will this hurler earn high-leverage roles?                

IN OTHER WORDS:

The most successful people are those who are good at plan B.” - James A. Yorke

For relievers, ERAs can be deceptive because a moundsman can have nine solid outings out of ten with one clunker for a 5.00 ERA. But if he’s successful in 8 out of 10 chances, he’s at 80 percent, and his effective rate meets management’s expectations with 75 percent acceptable for a season.  

Girardi has vocalized and demonstrated his survival plans for the bullpen, and it includes his roles from the sixth frame through the ninth with a potential closer and maybe two October relief additions. Unfortunately, many fans block out the skipper’s words with their “dominant” views. Fandom managers, no?                 

Hector Neris has the most important job in Giradi’s relief corps because he enters the game in the last three frames depending on which inning has the toughest outs. So, notice who hits in the seventh, eighth, or ninth frames; and you’ll know exactly when the split-finger pitcher will get the call.      

Continue reading "Phillies: Bullpen’s Plan B for 2020" »


2020 Phillies, NL East: Current National Predictions

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

After the Philadelphia Phillies had dominated at a 90.9 percent clip, they came back to earth because winning 10 of every 11 games isn’t sustainable by any team. And the players don’t expect everything to go their way indefinitely. Unfortunately, some locals believe hot or cold streaks never end, but they always do.   

 

Forecasts Revised:

For Phillies fans, the ups and downs between now and Sept. 27 will be a daily occurrence. Seven contests, though, of the final 21 are with a club on the playoff periphery and one in the cellar: the New York Mets (three games) and the Washington Nationals (four), while the Miami Marlins have seven contests to prove they’re for real. 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” - Benjamin Franklin

While many locals here are probably having some doubts after the 10-1 run ended, our northern neighbors in the Bronx are a perfect example of fandom’s equivalent of mood swings. Well, the New York Yankees opened the season with an 8-1 mark, and their supporters boasted their Bombers are basically unbeatable.               

World Series champs, no? But after they only had been triumphant in eight of their next 13 games at 16-5, they went 5-15 in their next 20, and their fans are beside themselves: They won’t make the playoffs, fire the general manager, and fire the skipper. For some reason, I remember similar sentiments elsewhere.             

My research includes keeping up with the other 29 organizations also, and ‘20 has multiple injuries every day and not just three or four. No, I’m not alone in noticing a year’s worth in a 60-game schedule not including the COVID-19 cases at the campaign’s beginning. This summer is unlike the usual 162.       

In fact, Yankees manager Aaron Boone has received criticism for giving guys too many days off, but he probably is being overly cautious to keep his team on the field. Realistically, the Bronx Bombers have been a MASH unit in 2019 and 2020. 

Continue reading "2020 Phillies, NL East: Current National Predictions " »


Phillies: 2020's NL East Rotation Surprises

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

In most seasons, the healthy team has an advantage over clubs with equal or slightly better personnel. And the Philadelphia Phillies are currently enjoying the good fortune of avoiding injuries to their five-man staff, while their three main competitors for the National League East pennant are not. Difference-maker, no?   

 

A One-of-a-kind Campaign:

On the surface, the Phillies faithful considered the Fighins’ rotation to be fourth out of five teams, but MLB injuries are an annual occurrence: 2019’s bullpen had withstood having eight relievers on the IL (injured list). And this summer has doubled MLB IL stints due to disrupted routines, plus COVID-19 is ever present.    

IN OTHER WORDS:

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” - Arthur Conan Doyle

Following the trading deadline, five-man staffs will only change due to injury, ineffectiveness, the coronavirus and in-house surprises. Therefore, the Fightins, the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets and Washington Nationals -- barring unplanned situations-- have their starters.         

Some locals express themselves with disappointment and/or anger because a certain organizational weakness still remains despite their belief of available talent a general manager should acquire. Unfortunately, the other club has a say: asking price and/or a willingness to move the star at all.   

Phillies atop the Rotation:

  • RH Aaron Nola, 27: 7 Gms., 44 Inn., 4-2, a 2.45 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP and a 1.3 fWAR.
  • RH Zack Wheeler, 30: 7 Gms., 45 Inn., 4-0, a 2.20 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and a 1.3 fWAR.
  • Stats through Sept. 3.

For the Phillies, Nola and Wheeler are a solid one-two punch, and round one of the playoffs is a three-game series. Ergo, the third contest is necessary if the clubs split the first two games, and the options here are Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin (probably), Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez.

Continue reading "Phillies: 2020's NL East Rotation Surprises" »


2020 Phillies: The Pitching Trade, Behind and Ahead

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Many fans believe they have the answers to the Philadelphia Phillies shortcomings in the pitching trade (occupation) during the offseason or before any month-ending deadline. Yet, unforgiving is a mild view of their reaction to those arms management didn’t acquire for 2019 and 2020. But have their suggestions panned out?                    

 

Glad or Mad: 

Except for Pat Gillick, the Phillies faithful have recently had these general managers: Ed Wade, Ruben Amaro Jr. and currently Matt Klentak. Yes, this sounds like a chorus: Fire Wade! Fire Amaro! Fire Klentak! Translation: Gillick won the 2008 World Series and is in the Hall of Fame. No parade, no job, no?                

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Toughest job in baseball is the general manager. Second toughest is the hitting coach.” - Ken Harrelson

Many opinionated locals voice their displeasure with the front office because they aren’t making satisfactory moves. And if Klentak wasn’t clueless in their eyes, these swaps and signings would produce a serious championship opportunity. Basically, these contending solutions for ‘19 and ‘20 were surefire according to many fans.  

For the five-man staff, southpaws Patrick Corbin, James Paxton, JA Happ, Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Cole Hamels were available; and lefty Robbie Ray now might be a possibility. Plus right-hander Dallas Keuchel was a free agent twice.       

With relievers, Zach Britton, Craig Kimbrel, Will Smith and Dellin Betances were the targeted gets according to the overall fan base. Surprisingly, the current alignment in the relief corps isn’t producing an outcry for any specific bullpen piece.   

Continue reading "2020 Phillies: The Pitching Trade, Behind and Ahead" »


Phillies vs. New York Mets for 2020

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies faithful focus on their relief corps, this glaring flaw has distracted many from a rotation some had doubted during the offseason. And those locals argued the five-man staff doomed the Fightins to fourth place, but others said a third place tie or worse. Yeah, dead last?    

                                           

Northern Neighbors:

For Phillies and New York Mets fans, this is the third summer where both organizations are competitive. Usually, one doesn’t have a shot at postseason glory, but injuries on both teams have been more than enough to sink those chances since 2008.     

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Such seems to be the disposition of man, that whatever makes a distinction produces rivalry.” - Samuel Johnson

In ‘20, the injuries are piling up for muscles, backs and ligaments at an alarming rate aside from COVID-19 incidents. Every day, the number of players placed on the IL (injured list) increases despite precautionary measures.                

The why is the downtime between March and July: Some players had more resources than others. Additionally, the shorter ramp-up time and the start-and-stop circumstances have roughly doubled the injury problem.  

Continue reading "Phillies vs. New York Mets for 2020" »


Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves in 2020

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

With their four-game series in the rearview mirror, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves have completed 40 percent of their contests. However, the other six games are before August’s end, and the trading deadline may not affect their current rosters unless either club acquires pitching prior to Aug. 30.     

 

Two New Obstacles:

For the Phillies and Braves, the keys are avoiding injuries caused by the lack of a player’s usual routine and/or downtime exposure to COVID-19. To illustrate, Joe Girardi has indicated in his interviews the important  differences are management’s and the players’ approach. Ergo, healthy talent wins!       

IN OTHER WORDS:

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” - Roger Staubach

For the third consecutive summer, winning the National League East boils down to four organizations with the potential for the divisional pennant. But it requires good fortune and health even under normal circumstances because you can’t pull the wagon over the finish line without the horses.  

In ‘20, stars must have the discipline to avoid risky situations off the field, and the skipper must keep them from doing too much. Even so, some Phils fans may question Girardi’s bullpen moves by, for instance, counting one pitch Hector Neris threw but ignoring the 30 warmup tosses before the save.     

In 2019, I had questioned Mike Soroka’s workload, and some Braves supporters obviously disagreed. Including all frames --minors, majors and playoffs-- the rookie had worked 56 ⅓ innings in 2018 and accumulated 191 frames in 2019. I don’t know, but did more than tripling his innings lead to his injury? 

Continue reading "Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves in 2020" »


Phillies: AL X Factors before 2020's October Battles

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Reentering the campaign, the Philadelphia Phillies took the field in Gotham against a team they thankfully play only for four regular-season games. Hopefully, the red pinstripes will achieve a 2-2 split by winning a second contest against the New York Yankees after returning to the Bank’s friendly confines.    

 

Eastern Complications:

After rearranging the same rejected offer repeatedly, the lords of baseball had instituted a 60-game schedule, and holes in their scheme didn’t take long to appear. Basically, the Phillies will have six makeup contests after their fourth game against the Yanks. Weather permitting.                                              

IN OTHER WORDS:

“A plan is an example of what could happen, not a prediction of what will happen.” - Kent Beck

According to speculation, the COVID-19 outbreaks on the Miami Marlins were due to players patronizing a bar. As for the St. Louis Cardinals, those stars went to a casino if the scuttlebutt is accurate. Meanwhile, more injuries than normal could be resulting from this stop-and-start competition or limited preparation.                         

This abbreviated campaign could have other pauses to compensate for additional youthful indiscretions, and it should be no surprise because the under-30 crowd believes they are indestructible. And if you’re a professional athlete in playing shape, what do you do with hours of downtime?     

Hitters are usually their most dangerous in their first game after an injury hiatus, but how would an entire offense react in a comparable situation? And would these four contests qualify if the Phils secure a 2-2 split? Now, their early record may not inspire the fan base, but it isn’t a season-ending blow either.   

Phillies IL (Injured List):

  • David Robertson (unknown) and Seranthony Dominguez (out for the year).

Beginning in New York, Joe Girardi  had penciled Jake Arrieta in against Gerrit Cole, and then the skipper had Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola starting against two hurlers with other surnames. Ergo, the manager challenged Arrieta and lined up Zach Eflin for the final game.       

In the rotation, Nola had struggled only when he had reached his pitch-count limit in his first performance, while Wheeler displayed the hoped-for dominance. So, the Phils will have one turn through the five-man staff after Eflin’s appearance, and then Vince Velasquez can perhaps redeem himself after his rough first outing.

Because the Bombers have predominantly right-handed power, the three-batter rule means southpaws Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez had limited opportunities in critical situations. Penwise, Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter and Victor Arano were the go-to arms against New York (AL).                  

Even though the Phillies have played a handful of contests, Didi Gregorius has already established an important batting-order role. Apparently, he’s one hitter who’s ahead of the pitchers, but these COVID-19 postponements will likely provide no advantage to either bat or glove.  

Yankees IL:

  • SP Luis Severino (out for the year).
  • RP Tommy Kahnle (out for the year).

Following Cole in the rotation, the Yanks have James Paxton with his decreased velocity leading to four frames total in his first two starts. Moreover, Mashahero Tanaka who had suffered a light concussion after a comebacker off his head has only worked 2 ⅔ innings on 51 pitches with perhaps five frames next time.     

JA Happ is struggling again in ‘20, and the Yankees wanted to move him during the offseason. Lastly, Jordan Montgomery had a good first performance after only seven starts in the last two years due to Tommy John surgery, but he had produced a 3.88 ERA in 2017 as a rookie. Expect growing pains!                     

In the relief corps, they have Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and Chad Green getting the job done until Aroldis Chapman returns: The Fightins avoided this X factor. And their bullpen is also weaker this summer due to Kahnle’s absence and Dellin Betances signing with the New York Mets.        

While the Bronx Bombers have Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, they have no left-handed hitter with pop since Gregorius departed. For the most part, a right-handed closer will only face power from right-side bats, but they otherwise have no glaring offensive holes.  

2020 Predictions:

  • One: FanGraphs
  • Two: Davenport
  • Three: Pecota (Baseball Prospectus)
  • Four:  FiveThirtyEight
  • Avg.1: RotoChamp (Avg. of 1-4)
  • Avg. Wins of 1-5

NL East

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR  

AVG. 1  

AVG. WINS

Nationals 

33-27  

33-27  

32.9-27.1  

34-26

33-27

165.9 = 33.2 

Braves

33-27

32-28

30.4-29.6

32-28

32-28

159.4 = 31.9

Mets

33-27

31-29

32.2-27.8

32-28

33-27

161.2 = 32.2

Phillies

30-30

30-30

28.3-31.7

29-31

29-31

146.3 = 29.3

AL East

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

AVG. 1

AVG. WINS

Yankees

34-26

36-24

36.5-23.5

36-24

36-24

178.5 = 35.7

Rays

33-27

33-27

32.4-27.6

33-27

33-27

164.4 = 32.9

Red Sox

30-30

30-30

30.0-30.0   

30-30

31-29

152.0 = 30.4

Blue Jays

28-32

28-32

28.3-31.7

27-33

27-33

137.3 = 27.5

Although the Tampa Bay Rays are relatively healthy, their five-man staff hasn’t gone beyond the fifth inning, and ace Blake Snell has lasted five frames total in his two appearances. Moreover, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton and Ryan Yarbrough have had some difficulties, while Yonny Chirnos has excelled.                  

In the Rays’ pen, Oliver Drake has closed, and his setup men are Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado. Basically, they have a handful of middle relievers, who had limited ramp-up time, plus the 28-man roster means two hurlers who wouldn’t usually be on the parent club.   

As for hitting, Austin Meadows had led Tampa Bay in average (.291), home runs (33) and RBIs (89) in 2019, but he just returned to the lineup due to having the coronavirus. So, the Rays have been a middle-of-the-pack offense so far.   

Red Sox IL:

  • SP Chris Sale (out for the year) and SP Eduardo Rodriguez (out for the year).
  • RP Collin McHugh (opt out).

Without Sale and Rodriguez, Nathan Eovoldi heads the Boston Red Sox rotation. Remember, they traded David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. That stated, Boston’s staff isn’t strong enough to make the playoffs.      

Their relief corps has Brandon Workman closing if they have a ninth-inning lead, but the Red Sox are 14th in American League pitching and only ahead of the Seattle Mariners. According, though, to one of their players recently, they must score heavily to win.

Hitting-wise, Boston has a solid offense even without Mookie Betts. In the AL, they’re sixth in runs scored (a tie), fifth in homers (a tie) and fourth in average,  but they won’t go far with their shortcomings on the mound.          

Blue Jays IL:

  • RP Ken Giles (right-forearm strain).

Toronto inked veteran Hyun-Jin Ryu over the winter to head their rotation, but he isn’t off to a dominant start. However, they have also promoted Nate Pearson who had a solid first outing, but he’ll take his lumps for a couple 162s before making an impact. And the rest of the staff are innings-eaters.           

Presently, former Phillies closer Giles is on the IL; though, he also had a mild elbow issue in ‘19. So Anthony Bass is handling the ninth frame, and they can rely on Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis in setup roles.

With runs scored, the Blue Jays are last in the AL with 28, but youngsters Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Bo Bichette are having some success. Unfortunately, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are struggling so far. The odds, however, are low the three household-named offspring will have a breakout summer in ‘20.          

With Wheeler and Nola handling the seven-inning doubleheader, the bullpen had its best available arms after a day off, but the Phillies will still need a second win for a split with the Yankees. Outwardly, Girardi is guiding his team to avoid unnecessary risks, COVID-19 or injury, with what he hears. Opportunity knocking! 

 

NEXT:

Phillies, NL East: National Predictions for 2020

Rsz_1rsz_the_old_bell


Phillies, NL East: National Predictions for 2020

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

For the doubting Thomases among the Philadelphia Phillies fan base, these forecasts validate their thinking, and a five-game struggle (not losing streak) by mid-August (22 contests) will have some searching for the exit. Last year, it took two months. 

 

Masked 60:

Since 2012, some Phillies faithful consider the National League East predictions with a shrug. However, Atlanta Braves fans were upset by one 2019 forecast of 79 victories. They finished, though, with 97 triumphs, so one site had dramatically underestimated them.

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Perhaps the safest prediction we can make about the future is that it will surprise us.” - George Leonard

With the rescheduled four games against the New York Yankees, hope temporarily avoided a wound. But it demonstrated the fragility and luck of a 60-contest season amid the pandemic. Now, the MLB is adding new safeguards after one franchise had four positive tests for COVID-19 before the series finale.                   

Besides the normal injuries, players will tweak something due to hurriedly getting ready for ‘20 from a late summer-camp start or will catch the coronavirus itself. Ergo, missing stars can change an organization’s fortunes after Opening Day or during the final two weeks of September.

2020 Predictions:

  • One: FanGraphs
  • Two: Davenport
  • Three: Pecota (Baseball Prospectus)
  • Four:  FiveThirtyEight
  • Avg.1: RotoChamp (Avg. of 1-4)
  • Avg. Wins of 1-5

 

NL East

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR  

AVG. 1  

AVG. WINS

Nationals 

33-27  

33-27  

32.9-27.1  

34-26

33-27

165.9 = 33.2 

Braves

33-27

32-28

30.4-29.6

32-28

32-28

159.4 = 31.9

Mets

33-27

31-29

32.2-27.8

32-28

33-27

161.2 = 32.2

Phillies

30-30

30-30

28.3-31.7

29-31

29-31

146.3 = 29.3

AL East

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

AVG. 1

AVG. WINS

Yankees

34-26

36-24

36.5-23.5

36-24

36-24

178.5 = 35.7

Rays

33-27

33-27

32.4-27.6

33-27

33-27

164.4 = 32.9

Red Sox

30-30

30-30

30.0-30.0   

30-30

31-29

152.0 = 30.4

Blue Jays

28-32

28-32

28.3-31.7

27-33

27-33

137.3 = 27.5

 

Rotations:

Despite a 1-2 record, the red pinstripes’ five-man staff with Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler compares favorably to Atlanta’s and the New York Mets’ hurlers. Basically, Wheeler with a newborn son and Nola looking to better his 2019 stats will likely be extra careful healthwise.     

General manager Matt Klentak had Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard starting on the same day. Translation: 2-3 poor outings by Velasquez could open the bullpen gate for him to join Nick Pivetta. Meanwhile, Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin round out the rotation.    

While the Washington Nationals’ staff is the same, Stephen Strasburg had felt hand numbness for weeks during throwing sessions even before camp 2.0. And he will miss his second start also due to tingling in his thumb during light throwing. For now, this leaves the Nats with Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin atop the rotation.   

NL East  Rotations:

  • Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (thumb numbness when pitching).
  • Mets: Noah Syndergaard (out for 2020) and Marcus Stroman (out until early August with a calf muscle tear).
  • Braves: Cole Hamels (45-day IL) and Mike Foltynewicz (DFA).

After Jacob DeGrom, the Metropolitans numerically from ‘19 have Steven Matz (4.21 ERA), Rick Porcello (5.52 ERA) and Michael Wacha (4.76 ERA). Ergo, DeGrom and Stroman are their one-two punch, while the others have only had slightly better campaigns recently: This is who they are now.    

Atop the Braves’ five-man staff, Mike Soroka (35 starts) with a 2.68 ERA and Max Fried (40 starts) with a 4.02 ERA head the five-man staff with those 2019 stats. And the rest of the rotation has minimal experience except for Sean Newcomb (54 starts), unless Jhoulys Chacin, their waiver claim, with a 5.79 ERA slots fourth.

Bullpen:

With 11-12 relievers per team, the quality level of the bottom three or four are middle-relief and mop-up hurlers. But fretting by the locals about the 11th man isn’t necessary: It’s also an issue for the Phillies divisional rivals. And relievers including closers normally have control problems like Velasquez and Pivetta.                                            

For the Phils, Hector Neris will have Adam Morgan, Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano, and Pivetta to set him up. And if they’re healthy, they could be roughly 10th in the majors after being at the midpoint in ‘19 despite eight injured relievers. Plus the best three of the other six will continue unless rosters remain at 30.    

Again, the Nationals will be counting on Sean Doolittle to close if his velocity returns, or Daniel Hudson can duplicate his effectiveness after joining the club at the trading deadline. Plus Will Harris and Tanner Rainey are handling setup duties for Washington, while their other arms work middle relief. Will they be lucky again?                       

NL East  Relievers:

  • Phillies: David Robertson (unknown) and Seranthony Dominguez (out for the year).
  • Nationals: Roenis Elias (45-day IL)
  • Mets: Robert Gsellman (IL due to triceps) and Brad Brach (10-IL through Aug. 3).

At the back of the Mets’ pen, closer Edwin Diaz (5.59 ERA) and Jeurys Familia (5.70 ERA) will try to bounce back from last year, but they haven’t in the early going. And they have Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson, and offseason acquisition Dellin Betances --who couldn’t handle closing-- to set up the seventh and eighth innings.               

In Atlanta, closer Mark Melancon (balky back) made his 2020 debut on July 29, and signed closer Will Smith just came off the COVID-19 IL (injured list). But it’s Melancon’s job to lose: a strong possibility. Ergo, their setup men Luke Jackson and Shane Greene had filled in. 

Offense:

The Phillies nine looks solid: Andrew McCutchen (RH), Rhys Hoskins (RH), Bryce Harper (LH), JT Realmuto (RH), Didi Gregorius (LH), Jean Segura (RH), Jay Bruce (LH), Scott Kingery (RH), and Adam Haseley (LH) or Roman Quinn (SH). Yes, Hoskins --needing coaching-- must do more than accumulate free passes. 

The Fightins have scored five runs per game so far, and they have the starting staff and relief corps to win more than they lose. That stated, staying healthy (McCutchen) and regaining form (Hoskins) could raise their average runs per game to between five and six runs.                     

After having inconsistent coronavirus test results, Juan Soto will return after he receives the city’s clearance. And even though they depend heavily on their pitching, the loss of Anthony Rendon alone is problematic, but Soto has missed summer camp and their first six contests (2-4): a lot to overcome.  

New York (NL) has a solid offense, but they aren’t strong defensively. Basically, first sacker Pete Alonso enters ‘20 with high expectations he may not be able to meet, and he may press to duplicate his 53 bombs from ‘19 or their equivalent of 18 in 60 games: Will Mets fans understand?                            

Returning with little time in camp, Freddie Freeman had struggled until their sixth contest. Eventually, he’ll get enough at-bats and make NL moundsmen pay: later rather than sooner (I hope). But remember, they picked up no one to replace Josh Donaldson’s bat as well.        

To reiterate an earlier comment, pushing back four games against the Yanks after a difficult first series is good fortune for now. And Joe Girardi has reset the rotation beginning in New York: Nola, Wheeler, Arrieta, Eflin and Velasquez.

Providing the Phillies continue with negative testing, they’ll restart their truncated campaign against the Bombers in Gotham. But while the circumstances are less than ideal, what is the one thing you can do now after only three games? Scoreboard watching! 

 

NEXT:

Spencer Howard’s Odds for When

Rsz_1rsz_1bank_good

 


2020 Phillies: Spencer Howard’s Odds for When

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Promoting the lauded standout in the pipeline is always the tantalizing solution for the Philadelphia Phillies faithful to vicariously hope and dream of a championship through. And the general manager and/or skipper are the usual scapegoats who prevent the team from tasting champagne d'octobre.

 

August or September:

For Phillies fans who immediately want Spencer Howard in the five slot or higher, the concept of development and earning a role doesn’t apply to certain prospects. Baseball lifers, unsurprisingly, don’t have that take on the situation, nor do future stars. Ergo, success isn’t a day trip.          

IN OTHER WORDS:

Optimist: day dreamer more elegantly spelled.” - Mark Twain

When a local and a baseball man study the same numbers, why do they reach two different conclusions? For instance, a starter has a 2.50 Triple-A ERA, and some expect the same performance with the Fightins. But the organizational observer interprets those statistics differently due to their frequency.                           

If the baseball lifer sees a 2.50 Triple-A ERA, he doesn’t consider it a rarity because most “three to five slot” arms are from these MiLB standouts. In fact, an “old salt” realizes that --hopefully-- two will be mid-rotation pieces or lower, and Zach Eflin is the current four-slot hurler from these six below.

Continue reading "2020 Phillies: Spencer Howard’s Odds for When" »


Phillies: Closing in on 2020’s Opening Night

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the schedule simultaneously says game one of ‘20 and late July, will the Philadelphia Phillies start Aaron Nola against the Miami Marlins under the lights? And did he have enough time to ramp up? Will Zack Wheeler be here or at the maternity ward, or will Zach Eflin’s balky back delay his first outing?    

    

One-of-a-kind Memories:

In Phillies history, July 24 is the first and only Opening Day beginning with a stretch drive to October. And it will stand apart from March and April starts like a lost continent due to nature's unpredictability: 102 contests shy of a full 162.    

IN OTHER WORDS:

“‘We Gonna Win' is a song of triumph; it represents my personal belief that with hard work, talent, and dedication; everything is possible. It's a one of a kind.” - Miri Ben-Ari

Every star absorbs energy from cheering spectators who appreciate talent. In baseball, the clutch knock or bomb leads to a standing ovation for and a cap tip from a feared hitter like Bryce Harper. But how will he handle an empty stadium at home or on the road? Punish the opposition!     

With no crowd judging every pitch, Vince Velasquez may benefit and could develop the confidence going forward to silence the boobirds more often than seasons past. Yes, I’m certain he’s heard he should be in the pen, and this is the opportunity to prove otherwise to his detractors.                   

Barring changes, broadcasters will hear a left fielder’s sneeze, plus the batter will catch the receiver’s movements and the infielders talking defense. Moreover, the players will hear color men like John Kruk pointing out mistakes and make immediate adjustments.                    

For instance, an MMA fighter heard a mistake he was committing from an announcer. And he won the bout due to that specific information.

Mic-wise, regulars probably won’t continuously wear one because you’d hear all their comments: even the ugly ones.  

Do you remember those cardboard cutouts in the stands for the Korean baseball contests?  Well, the Bank reportedly will also have them and already has canned crowd noise from Sony’s MLB The Show, plus viewers can hear it now during intrasquad games.     

JT Realmuto is too intense and will probably not play any differently with or without a full house. Besides, he came from the Marlins, and they had plenty of good seats available on game day. Plus he’s playing for a contract with, perhaps, virus-related exceptions.

Due to the pandemic, general manager Matt Klentak has a full plate just to field a team with the risks, the testing, and the uncertainties for not only 2020 but also 2021. And if the faithful are expecting business as usual, hold your fire because the front-office is making adjustments daily.               

Klentak isn’t immune from social distancing measures and mask-wearing situations as the head of many departmental directors. Ergo, numerous employees! And until things settle down a bit, the execs aren’t rushing to make expensive, long-term commitments; and their peers have the same concerns.    

To illustrate, are you ready to purchase a big-ticket item? No, you’ll wait until the current situation stabilizes, and decision-makers in the majors are doing just that with elite players like Realmuto. Plus managing partner John Middleton is claiming a $100 million loss this year.    

Testing free agency isn’t a given for Realmuto or a worry for the Phillies because neither side can see past the COVID-19 fog. And, presently, this is not a front-burner issue for the higher-ups, and even the All-Star catcher must realize the offer from Middleton could be higher in two months.        

Rotation Madness:

During the four-month delay, many starters had locations to throw bullpen sessions and have simulated games. So, some came to camp ready to ramp up to five innings or more for their first campaign performance depending on their available resources.     

Another wrinkle is the frequency of changing the ball in play. Unfortunately, Gerrit Cole gave up a comfortable ball in an intrasquad appearance for one he didn’t like: homer!    

To complicate matters, the coronavirus disrupted some stars from beginning camp with their teammates on July 1, but others are still arriving or opting-out of ‘20. So keep in mind, an unwanted roster change to the Phillies or a divisional rival can occur at any time.                         

According to CBSsports.com, the Fightins’ pitching order will be Nola, Jake Arrieta, Eflin and Velasquez for the first four contests --if accurate. But Eflin and Velasquez may switch if Eflin needs an extra day due to the back spasms he had recently.  

On July 18, Nola will face the Washington Nationals in the first of three exhibition games, and management expects him to reach 65 pitches: 4-5 frames. And he’ll start the opener against Miami at the Bank on July 24 for 5-6 innings and roughly 80-85 tosses.                 

While Wheeler (68 pitches) and Velasquez each went four frames on July 14, the Phillies may want Wheeler to start game five on July 28 against the New York Yankees.  My guess: He won’t miss a turn during his three-day paternity leave at July’s end and will face the Toronto Blue Jays away on Aug. 2.  

Pitching coach Bryan Price has stated Spencer Howard will toe the rubber at some point this summer. So, uniformed management could make a calendar-related change to the five slot after only 2-3 sub-par outings. Howard? 

 

NEXT:

Phillies, NL East: 14-Day Backup Plans for 2020

Rsz_1rsz_1bank_good